Picture this: You’re attending a college reunion in Delhi, excited to reconnect with old friends. During a conversation, you find yourself pausing, uncertain whether to say "I'm an alumnus" or "I am an alumni". It’s a common problem many face.

Misusing terms can lead to awkward situations and misunderstandings. So, whether it's an email, a business meeting, or a casual chat at a reunion, knowing when to use 'alumnus' vs 'alumni' can make your interactions smoother and more confident.

In this article, we'll look into these two similar-looking words and provide examples of their correct usage. Let's start.

What Does Alumnus Mean?

"Alumnus" is a term used to refer to an individual who has graduated or completed their education from a particular institution. Originating from Latin, 'alumnus' comes with a masculine grammatical gender. However, in modern English usage, it can be used for both men and women.

For instance, you could say: "Aamir is an alumnus of Delhi University" or "Meena is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology".

What Does Alumni Mean? And How Is It Different From Alumnus?

Contrary to 'alumnus', the term "alumni" refers to a group of individuals who have graduated from the same institution. Essentially, 'alumni' is the plural form of 'alumnus'.

It's important to remember that while 'alumnus' pertains to one person, 'alumni' denotes multiple graduates, male or female. For example: "The alumni of St. Xavier's College have organised a reunion."

Here's a quick comparison:




One graduate from an institution

Group of graduates from the same institution




When Do We Use Alumnus vs Alumni?

If you are a man who has graduated from a particular educational institution, then you would refer to yourself as an 'alumnus'.

For example, during a reunion, you might say "As an alumnus of Madras University, I remember the bustling campus life vividly."

On the other hand, if you are addressing or referring to a group of graduates from a specific institution (both men and women), the term 'alumni' is used. You could use it in your LinkedIn profile or job application like so: "I'm proud to be among the alumni of IIT Madras".

These terms are mostly used in formal settings like work or academia. It's essential to know their correct usage as it reflects your command of professional English.

Understanding Similar Terms - Alumna and Alumnae

To dive deeper into the usage of alumnus vs alumni, it's essential to also clarify the terms "alumna" and "alumnae".

An "alumna" is a woman who has graduated from an educational institution. If you are referring to multiple female graduates, you would use the term "alumnae".

Let's look at a simple table to sum up the meanings of all four words:
















Common Mistakes Indian English Learners Make with These Terms

A common error made by non-native English speakers in India is using the term 'alumni' when referring to a single person.

For example, one might say, "My brother is an alumni of MGR College." However, the correct usage should be, “My brother is an alumnus of MGR College.

The term 'alumni' should be used when referring to a group: "The alumni of Chennai Public School are organising a reunion."

Another frequent mistake is using 'alumni' for both genders. The correct term for a female graduate is 'alumna', whereas 'alumnae' refers to a group of female graduates.

To avoid these mistakes, remember:

  • 'Alumnus' for one male graduate

  • 'Alumna' for one female graduate

  • 'Alumni' for a group of male graduates or a mixed-gender group

  • 'Alumnae' for a group of female graduates

By keeping these simple rules in mind, you can define and use the terms 'alumnus vs alumni' correctly in every situation.

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Final Thoughts

The difference between alumnus and alumni is simple but important.

  • An alumnus is a single male or gender-neutral individual who has graduated from an educational institution (school, college, or university).

  • Alumni refers to a group of graduates, regardless of their gender.

It's essential to remember these differences to navigate professional conversations correctly. As you continue your journey towards English mastery, applying such understanding in real-life situations can be empowering and rewarding.

At Clapingo, we believe in turning language learning into an exciting journey rather than a daunting task. We're here to guide you through every step, providing personalised one-on-one sessions tailored to your unique learning needs and pace. Together, let’s conquer the English language!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When should I use alumnus vs alumni?

If you're referring to a single male graduate, you should use "alumnus". However, if you're speaking about a group of graduates from an institution, regardless of their gender, you can use "alumni".

2. Does the term alumni only refer to university graduates?

While it's often used in the context of universities and colleges, the term "alumni" isn't limited to just higher education institutions. It can also refer to individuals who've attended schools or even companies where one has worked.

3. Can women be referred to as alumni?

Yes. The term "alumni" is gender-neutral and can be used for groups of men, women, or mixed-gender graduates. If you want to specifically refer to female graduates, the singular term is "alumna", with the plural being "alumnae".

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